NSA revealed to be secretly collecting phone calls of US citizens

The Patriot Act, first passed in the wake of September 11, 2001, has been argued by some to be an effective tool against fighting terrorism. Critics, on the other hand, allege that the law has been used to dramatically increase the government's spying powers, especially in regards to the country's citizens. The truth seems to be somewhere in the middle, as an explosive report published by The Guardian, a U.K.-based news source, revealed this week that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been secretly collecting phone records from big telecommunications companies like AT&T and Verizon for the past seven years.

In its disclosure, the source showed that the Obama administration has continued some of the shadiest Bush administration policies as the War on Terror has evolved in the wake of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The legality of the action seems to rely on the definition of "metadata," which relates to the time stamps, duration and subjects of a call but not its content. This appears to be the justification for allowing the program to continue, as it does not appear to fully violate private data laws. Additionally, successive court orders – most recently a three-month-long authorization – have been approved by federal judges. 

For its part, the Obama administration appears to be content with the brewing firestorm over the release. Both senior White House officials and members from either political party have responded to criticism by saying that the program is a necessity to ensure that America's interest are protected.

"Within the last few years, this program was used to stop a terrorist attack in the United States," Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan told the media on June 6. "We know that. It's important. It fills in a little seam that we have, and it's used to make sure that there's not an international nexus to any terrorism event that they may believe is ongoing in the United States."

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